Summer 2016 Road Trip, Day 8: Winetasting My Way Home

The day I learn just how big Canada’s Okanogan wine country is.

I woke up not long after dawn, although it was a while before the sun would shine down on the Turtleback. I finished up the Day 6 blog post while I was having my coffee. No attendant had come by to collect my $12 camping fee, so by the time Penny and I rolled out at about 9 AM, we’d had our fifth free night of camping.

We got back on the main road (Route 3 AKA Crowsnest Highway) and headed toward Princeton, where I stopped for fuel. That’s where I learned that in Canada, green pump handles do not mean diesel; yellow pump handles do. I had to cancel a transaction and move the truck before I could fuel up. (I really do need to pay closer attention.)

The road continued along the Similkameen River and I have to admit that a full week later (as I write this) I don’t remember anything terribly interesting about it. (This is why I really need to write up my trips promptly.) I do recall it being a pleasant enough drive without much traffic.


My canoeing friends at Hozomeen had highly recommended taking the tour offered by the First Nation People of the mine high above Hedley, so when I saw signs for that town, I turned in. I parked across the street from the Visitor Center/Museum and, leaving the windows open for Penny, took a walk around to see what I could learn about the tour.

There was a gift shop in what looked like an old house with a sign proclaiming it had “extraordinary gifts for extraordinary people” and I went in to check it out. It was a disappointing collection of the same tourist shlock you’d find in any area gift shop, most of it Chinese made, although there was a collection of supposedly locally made goat milk soaps. The place was for sale and the guy behind the counter, who probably owned it, was obviously not interested in replenishing any stock he sold; the shelves were half empty. He did have a decent collection of books and maps, though, and if I was still buying that kind of stuff, I probably would have bought a few.

Outside was a farmer’s market consisting mostly of a few vendors selling peaches. A duo performed live music on the gift shop’s porch; he played guitar while she sang off-key, doing an especially bad job on a Janis Joplin song. Nearby was a roadside restaurant that was open but also had a For Sale sign on it.

It was not a very uplifting spot.

Mascot Mine
Mascot Mine, shot through the telescope.

There were no signs around for any tours so I decided to check out the museum, which was also in an old house. I got about two steps onto the porch before a young woman from just inside the door approached me and asked me if I’d like to know about the town. Sure, I told her. So she told me about the town’s history as a mining community and pointed out the Mascot Mine site perched at the top of a nearby mountain. A small telescope had been set up and aimed right at it, so I could look through and see the buildings. Before those buildings had gone in, miners had to hike up there every day. There was a lot more, but I honestly don’t remember it. The young woman was knowledgeable and friendly and could answer just about any question I had.

When I asked about the mine tours, she said they were closed for the season — in the first week of August? — and she wasn’t sure if they’d ever start up again. That seemed a real shame because the tours appeared to be the only thing of real interest in the town. The museum was interesting, but unless you’re a real history buff, it isn’t worth stopping for.

I did walk through the museum and look at the exhibits. That’s where I saw photos of all the buildings in town that had burned down or been washed away by floods over the years. No wonder there wasn’t much going on in town.

There was a cafe in one room and I ordered a piece of pie. I sat out on the porch to eat it, chatting with the young woman and an older woman who I suspect might have been her grandmother. Then the phone rang and the older woman was called away. Two other tourists stepped onto the porch and the history lecture began again for them.

I threw away my paper plate and headed back to the truck. I took a slow drive through the downtown area, hoping to see something of interest and came up empty.

So I got back on Route 3 and continued on my way.

Fruit Stands and Wineries

It wasn’t long before I reached Keremeos. That’s where traffic picked up and the fruit stands began. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many. I stopped at the first one, not expecting to see many more, and bought some very ripe apricots. Back in the truck, I passed one after another.

I paused to look at the Wine Country brochure I’d picked up in Hedley. That’s when I discovered that the Okanogan Valley between Penticton and the U.S. border was just crammed with wineries. It was like Napa Valley. I’d known there were wineries there, but never expected that many.

Guess which day I went wine-tasting? I grabbed this screenshot the next day, after all my steps had been tallied.

It was Sunday and I figured I may as well have a day of rest after my week of daily hiking. So I picked out some wineries to visit: Seven Stones, Burrowing Owl, and Road 13 (recommended by a Facebook friend).

Seven Stones has a small tasting room with an outdoor patio overlooking the Similkameen River valley. But their draw seems to be their “wine cave,” which is where the wines are stored. After letting Penny out for a quick run and to meet the winery dogs, I put her back into the truck and went inside for a tasting. The tastes were tiny — barely enough to really taste the wine. (I understand that they don’t want people to get drunk, but I need two sips to get a good taste of a wine.) I asked what the area specialized in and was told “reds.” Not a specific grape — just “reds.” Okay. I wound up buying one bottle each of Merlot and Meritage. (Unless the wine is awful or the staff is rude, I always buy wine when I go to taste.)

I should mention that the whites were good, too — nice and dry, the way I like them — but since I rarely drink white wine and have accumulated quite a collection of it, I’ve decided not to buy any, no matter how much I like it. I really need to drink (or serve) what I’ve got before I buy more. White wine just doesn’t last as long as reds do.

Seven Stones Wine Cave
The wine cave at Seven Stones Winery.

I asked about the famous wine cave and was told that they do tours for $7 per person. What the hell; I was on vacation. So I paid for my wine and the tour and the woman who’d done my tasting took me out back where a spiral staircase wound down into the base of a tower. Through a door was a basement room with a kitchen area and some stacked wine barrels. My tour guide told me they have cave tastings and other events down there. Through another door was a larger room with many more stacked barrels. An open elevator large enough to accommodate a loaded forklift stood against one wall; a very nice mural of the seven stones of the area (which give the winery its name) decorated the elevator shaft. It was all nicely done and very pleasant and the smell of wine was heavy in the air. It was apparently the only wine cave in the area. It was more of a basement than a cave but I don’t think “Tour our Wine Basement” would be quite as impressive on signs.

Burrowing Owl's Guest House
My seat on the deck at Burrowing Owl gave me a nice view of the Guest House facility. If a room had been available and they were dog friendly, Penny and I would have spent the night.

Back at the truck, I gave Penny another chance to run around. Then we loaded up and headed out to our lunch destination: Burrowing Owl Estate Winery in Oliver. This is quite a place, with a large tasting room, restaurant, and “guest house.” It reminds me of a cross between Cave B in Quincy and Tsillan Cellars in Chelan. I was hungry — I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was well after noon. I left Penny in the truck with the windows open and went into the restaurant. After washing up, I was seated out on a deck overlooking the valley. The host who sat me commented on how great the view was; I didn’t tell him that the view off my own deck at home was a lot better.

Duck for Lunch

My lunch: duck (top) and Napoleon (bottom).

I had an amazing meal. After a week of camping and eating simply prepared food mostly from my garden, it was a real treat to have food that took flavor combinations into consideration. I started with a salad special that combined greens with beets and goat cheese and followed that up with the most amazing duck confit (duck leg, cornbread, popcorn gremolata, creamed corn, and baby kale). A glass of the recommended wine, a Syrah, went with it. Dessert was a Napoleon of strawberries, hazelnut puff pastry, and creme fraiche mousse with basil and white chocolate ice cream. (How do I remember this? I’ve looked up the menu online.) It was the flavor combinations that they got so completely right. I’d arrange different combinations on my fork and taste it for a constantly varying result. Wow. This was, by far, the costliest part of the trip — my lunch cost nearly $75 US — but it was so worth it.

After lunch, I went to the tasting room and tried four wines. I would up with a bottle each of the Syrah and Merlot. A required $5 tasting fee supposedly went to a fund to protect burrowing owls, which, ironically, they didn’t have on the property.

Tractor outside of Road 13
One of the two tractors outside of Route 13 Vineyards. As you can see, the terrain in the area is remarkably similar to where I live, which was only 3 hours away.

My last winery of the day was Road 13 Vineyards. This is a dog-friendly place on a hill overlooking the valley, so Penny came in with me. The building has turrets, like a little castle, and big windows to take in the view from inside. Like our local Jones of Washington Winery, they use a tractor as a symbol of their place; it appears on the foil caps over each cork and there are two of them parked outside.

I tasted a few wines and liked about half of them. The one I liked most was way over my budget (of course), but I wound up buying one bottle each of Merlot/Syrah and a red blend. Oddly, when I asked what the area specialty was, the response was simply “reds.”

I might mention here that in each winery, I asked what the policy was for taking wine across the border back to the U.S. In each place, I got a different story. One said two bottles per person and then 23¢ per bottle in excess. Another said one bottle per person and then a tariff based on price so I should keep my receipts handy. The said that all wine was subject to tariff, but it wasn’t more than about a dollar a bottle. Seems to me that this should be a question most wineries so close to the U.S. border should have a correct and consistent answer for.

One More Night? Maybe Not

By this time, I’d had enough wine tasting. In all honesty, I think I’d had enough vacation. I felt a little road weary. I had no real plans for an overnight stop or destination. I figured I’d just head south and get back into the U.S., then decide what to do.

So we headed south,crossing the border at Osoyoos, BC, just north of Oroville, WA. There was no one on line ahead of me. I stopped and handed over my Passport Card. There were two people in the booth, a woman and an older man. I soon realized that the woman was training the man.

He asked me where I lived and I told him Malaga, near Wenatchee. He asked how long I’d been in Canada and I told him just a few days. He asked where I’d been and I told him various parks along the southern border of BC. Then I named them. He asked if I was bringing anything from Canada into the U.S. I told him I’d bought six bottles of wine. He consulted with his companion and she signaled that it was okay. He then asked about farm produce and firewood. I said I had some of both on board but I’d brought them from the U.S. (I’d eaten all the apricots on my drive.) Then he just gave me back my card and waved me through.

We were back in the U.S.

I drove south on Route 97, through Oroville, Tonasket, Omak, and Okanogan. This was all new territory for me — I’d never driven this stretch of road, although I had seen Omak and Okanogan from the air back in 2008 when I had orchards to cover there during cherry season. It wasn’t a terribly interesting drive. I think it was because I was tired. It was after 5 PM and I’d done a lot of driving with just enough wine tasting to make me mellow.

By the time I reached Lake Pateros near Brewster, I was ready to stop for the night. But I was also less than two hours from home. Part of me wanted one more night of vacation while the other part of me was looking forward to a long, hot shower and my own bed.

Still, when I reached the junction of route 17, I headed south instead of continuing west. I was lured by the camping icon on the sign for Bridgeport State Park. One more night.

But when I got to the park, I found a typical state park campground: small sites relatively close together, few sites with hookups, nothing appealing. It was a park parking lot. And although I was tired enough to accept that, I couldn’t accept the price tag: $35/night for a site with no view, privacy, or hookups. Seriously, Washington? Asking so much money for an overnight parking spot was borderline obscene.

And this makes me wonder exactly why people go “camping” in places like this. What is it that they think they’re getting for their money? I can’t figure it out. Other than a piece of asphalt that’s likely to be level, a picnic table, and a fire pit, there’s nothing there. Well, maybe they had flush toilets. But is that worth $35/night? I don’t think so.

But maybe I was spoiled. I’d camped in some pretty nice spots during my seven nights on the road and had spent a total of $34 on camping fees.

Anyway, I turned around and left. Then I asked Google to find me a route home and followed its directions over the Waterville Plateau. There was no traffic until I got to East Wenatchee.

I was home before 8 PM.

And that shower felt heavenly.

Summer 2016 Road Trip, Day 7: Hozomeen to Copper Creek

A few short hikes and a sweet creekside campsite.

I slept with the camper’s door open (and screen door closed, of course) for the first time. Unlike my other overnight stops, I suspected it would stay warm enough overnight and it did.

I slept really well until around midnight when I woke up with a weird allergy attack. I read until the faucet in my nose turned itself off. Even then, it wasn’t easy to get back to sleep. The frogs were really croaking! I didn’t mind being kept up for that, though. It’s desertlike where I live and there aren’t any frogs.

It was getting light when I woke up. I worked on a blog post, getting it ready to publish, while I had my coffee with some cereal and the last of the blueberries I’d picked a full week before. (It’s amazing how long they stay fresh when you pick them yourself.) By the time I was ready to emerge from the Turtleback for the day, the lake was glassy smooth. I grabbed my camera and shot a few photos of the reflections with the morning sun shining on the opposite shore.

Hozomeen Dock at Ross Lake
One of the boat docks at Winebago Flats. Ross Lake was glassy smooth in the morning.

Meanwhile, the folks who had held my campsite for me were packing up to leave. I thought that odd — they had a canoe on the roof of their car. Surely they didn’t drive all the way down to Hozomeen to just to camp for one night. I said goodbye and thanked them again as they climbed into their car. They turned right instead of left when they left — maybe they were going to put that canoe in the water after all.

I’d already packed up my campsite the night before — it’s important to keep a clean campsite when there are bears in the area — so there wasn’t anything else to do before leaving.

Except take a hike, of course.

The Lakeside Trail

Penny and I set off on the same trail we’d taken to the campground the afternoon before, this time heading downlake. It was wonderfully cool — even the shoreline was in the shade — and quiet. I walked at a good pace, stopping every now and then to look around me and maybe take a photo. I admit that I spent more than my fair share of time wondering if the local bear would put in an appearance; I did see some relatively fresh bear scat along the lake.

Ross Lake near Hozomeen
Along the trail from Winnebago Flats to the Hozomeen Campground boat ramp.

Fork in the Trail
A fork in the lakeside trail at Hozomeen.

I could hear the rushing of Hozomeen Creek long before I got to where the trail split. I knew from the previous day’s hike that the left fork would take us up to the road near Ranger Housing. Where would the right fork take us? To the lake, I assumed. But would there be a bridge across the creek?

Log Bridge
The shorter of two split log bridges across Hozomeen Creek near Ross Lake.

The answer was yes. There were actually two bridges, each of which were created by splitting a log so it had a flat walking surface and then attaching a handrail to it. I was impressed by the first one, but the second one, which had to be close to 100 feet long, blew me away. Had the logs fallen there naturally and then been turned into bridges? Or did someone actually put them in place? I couldn’t imagine getting any heavy equipment in there.

After the bridges, the trail wound down to the boat ramp. And that’s where I saw my two camping neighbors. They were at the ramp with their canoe upside down. The woman was fanning the bottom of the canoe with a foam pad while the man stood by, waiting. Their gear, in dry bags, was neatly organized nearby.

We got to talking (of course). It seems that when they launched the canoe, it began taking on water. They were repairing the bottom with duct tape. Neither of these things surprised me. The canoe looked old and very well used. It had other signs of patches in its fiberglas bottom. And duct tape — well, you use what you’ve got. They were cleaning and drying each area before applying the tape and putting multiple layers on. They seemed pretty confident that their repairs would hold. Then they’d be out for an overnight camping trip along the lake.

We chatted while the woman made the repairs. We talked about the north and south ends of the lake and how Americans had to come all the way up to Canada to launch a boat. We talked about hiking trails in the North Cascades National Park and how US parks had better trails than Canadian parks (their opinion; I didn’t have enough data to come to any conclusion). The conversation inevitably turned to politics. Seriously: Canadians are very worried about Donald Trump becoming president. Even when I tried to steer the conversation somewhere else, it led back. I learned a little more about Canadian politics, too.

Finally, their boat was patched sufficiently and we were all ready to move on. We said our goodbyes and I continued hiking, now up the road to the boat ramp. The previous day, I’d noticed a trail that continued down toward the lake. Maps showed that it went down to a point of land — you can see it in the photo above. So Penny and I plunged back into the forest, in the strip of land between the campground we’d first parked in and the lake.

Pissed Off Squirrel
This was one very pissed off squirrel.

At one point, Penny saw a squirrel and chased it up a tree. It ran up 20 or more feet, then turned and started making really weird little noises at us. I had to record a video. (I just played it and Penny went nuts.)

I’ve never heard a sound like this out of an animal.

We went off the trail briefly to walk down to the lake’s edge. The water was deep right off the shore there with a series of rock shelves that would make a great point for getting in and out of the water. A perfect swimming hole on a hot day.

In the distance, I could see my canoeing friends paddling toward us on the glassy smooth water. I envied them, in a way. It was an absolutely perfect day for paddling and I wished I could be out there, too. I expected them to continue right past me with a wave and final goodbye, but they paddled right up to where I was standing. Then they proceeded to tell me about other places along my route of travel that might interest me: the Othello Tunnels, the wildflower meadow at Manning Park, and the mine tour at Hedley. I committed all of this to memory (somehow), including driving directions and other tips.

Canoeing on Ross Lake
Nice day for a paddle, eh?

At one point, the woman reached down into the water and exclaimed “It’s so warm! Like bathwater! Feel it!” I had my doubts — after all, this was a mountain lake on the Canadian border — but I did as she asked and dipped a hand in. She was right: it was very warm. Seeing people in the water at Winnebago Flats the previous afternoon no longer surprised me.

We chatted a while longer, then all got on our way.

The trail ended at a bench overlooking the lake. Well, kind of overlooking the lake — there were enough trees in front of the bench that sitting at it wouldn’t give you much of a view. I got a last look at my canoeing friends far down the lake, paddling a few hundred feet out from the shoreline.

Penny and I turned around and headed back the way we’d come. Total distance hiked was 2.8 miles. Not bad for an easy morning hike. Interested in a track log with photos? Here you go: Hozomeen Lakeside.

The Othello Tunnels

The Border
The border between the US and Canada is easily visible as a clearing between the two countries. It’s all ready for Donald Trump’s northern wall. Or, more likely, the wall the Canadians would put up to keep out Americans if Trump were elected.

Since we were already all packed up, all I had to do was visit my tiny bathroom — the pit toilets at Winnebago Flats were not something I was willing to face — and close up the Turtleback’s slide. Then we were back in the truck and heading north. I made one stop at the border and that was to take two photos. One was the border sign I showed in the previous day’s blog post. The other was of the actual border, which you can see as a clearing that stretches as far as the eye can see in either direction.

The road north started out smooth and became progressively rougher as I continued north. The more use it got for Canadian parks along its length, the rougher it became. I was glad to reach that sorry excuse for pavement and even gladder to reach the main road in Hope an hour after leaving the park.

I stopped alongside the road and uploaded two blog posts and a handful of track logs. I didn’t bother checking email — nothing of interest had arrived the last time I’d checked. Besides, I was rather enjoying the illusion of being off-the-grid even when I technically wasn’t. Like most connected people, I spend far too much time looking at a computer.

I eventually got on the main road and found my way to Route 3. Then I took the exit for Route 5, looking for the Othello Tunnels. It wasn’t far off my route. I steered my way along a side road and into a very tight parking lot. I was immediately glad again that I’d shed my Mobile Mansion for the Turtleback — I could park in a regular spot. There’s no way I could have parked anywhere nearby towing a virtual house behind me.

The place was crowded with families and people walking dogs — it was a Saturday, after all. It was after noon and I was hungry and not at all in a hurry so Penny and I climbed into the Turtleback and I made myself a nice lunch: sardines I’d bought at Trader Joe’s the previous week with some diced onion on some of that multigrain bread I’d bought my first day in Canada. (It never seemed to go stale.) Then I gathered together my camera and a water bottle and climbed back down into the parking lot with Penny on a leash and headed for the trailhead.

Othello Tunnels Map
Here’s a map of the trail. It actually extended quite a bit past Tunnel 5. You can download the entire map from the park website.

The Othello Tunnels are a series of five old railroad tunnels built into the side of Coquihalla Canyon, a 300-foot deep channel cut in solid granite by the Coquihalla River. They were (and are) an engineering marvel that combined tunnels and bridges, making it possible for the railroad to get through a difficult area instead of having to go around it.

First Othello Tunnel
Penny looked eager to go into the first of the five tunnels.

Although there were a lot of people on the trail, it was plenty wide. It descended at a gentle grade — after all, it had been a train route once — through the woods with plenty of places to look down at the roaring river beside it. The first tunnel began not long after the river entered the gorge it had created. The longest of the tunnels, it got very dark in the middle. A few hikers had flashlights. Penny walked along with me, a tiny shadow at the end of her leash.

On the other end, it was bright and sunny and the river roared through the gorge beside us. The next tunnel started almost immediately. It was a lot shorter and never got very dark. Then there was a bridge and tunnels 3 and 4, which really didn’t have any space between them. Another bridge over the river and then the final tunnel, which had a bend to it.

We walked along at a good pace, stopping between tunnels to look out over the river and gorge. It was a really beautiful place and I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be on a train going along this route. Terrifying, likely, to a passenger.

Between the Tunnels A look into the Gorge
I stopped to take photos between the tunnels — it made no sense to take photos inside them. The gorge was actually quite beautiful. The water gets its color from glacial “flour” — silt in melting glaciers.

Railroad Trail
The trail beyond the last tunnel is mostly in a cut in the granite walls.

We kept walking past the last tunnel. The trail continues on, mostly in a cut that’s canopied, in some places, by fallen, moss-covered trees. Fewer people were on this part of the trail; most seemed to walk through the tunnels and back. We walked as far as another gate, which was also open, and then turned back. The tunnels were darker on the way back because of the direction of the sun, especially that long first tunnel.

Want a track log for this little hike? My GPS said we did more than 3 miles, but I’m not sure how accurate that is since it likely lost contact with satellites inside the tunnels and there are some odd-looking elevation spikes in the track log graph. But here’s what I uploaded, with photos: Othello Tunnels.

In Manning Park

Back in the truck, I headed out, taking a few minutes to chat with my sister (via the trucks’s bluetooth audio) along the way. I like to check in periodically to make sure I’m not missing anything important. I wasn’t.

I lost the cell connection as I headed eastbound on Route 3, the so-called Crowsnest Highway. This road runs a zigzag course through the south end of British Columbia, winding around heavily trees mountains and through valleys. It wasn’t long before the road passed into EC Manning Provincial Park, which must be one of the larger parks in British Columbia. It has lots of trails and campgrounds, and points of interest. It even has a ski resort.

I saw the sign for the Wildflower Meadow and turned left. The narrow road immediately began climbing steeply up the side of a mountain. It went on for a few miles before there was a view point. I was one of about five vehicles that turned in. I let Penny out, leashless, and she immediately began chasing chipmunks that hid in the drainage openings of the curb. It was pretty entertaining for onlookers. The view from up there, at least 2,000 feet above the valley floor, was amazing. A sign pointed out the names of various peaks, including Hozomeen Mountain (which looked very close) and Mount Winthrop, both of which are in the US. Far below us, I could see the resort area for the park, with its restaurant, lodging, and other amenities.

From Manning Park
The view from the overlook on the road to the Wildflower Meadow at Manning Park.

Penny and I continued the climb. There was a trailhead parking area and we kept going. Then the road ended at another trailhead. Parking was tough, but I found a spot alongside the road. I put Penny on a leash and we set out to explore the Paintbrush Trail.

Wildflower Meadow Sans Wildflowers
There weren’t many wildflowers at Wildflower Meadow, but there was a massive antenna installation and an even better view. This is looking southeast.

The trail likely gets its name from the only flower still blooming: Indian Paintbrush. But even those had already faded. Between the cold nights at that elevation — over 6,000 feet — and the lack of rainfall, the flowers were already gone. I imagine it must be something in spring or early summer, but at the end of the first week in August, it’s a bust. (My canoeing friends warned me that it might be too late in the season for flowers.) We did a short hike anyway — maybe a mile — and admired both the view and the massive antenna array that guaranteed me a cell signal. Then we went back to the truck and retraced our route down the mountain.

Copper Creek

By this time, it was after 5 PM and I was starting to think about a place to spend the night. My trip planning had pretty much ended the day before and now I was making up everything as I went along. So I started by driving into the resort area, following a sign to Lightning Lake campground. That was full, but there was a ranger at the booth and I asked her about camping possibilities. She told me that camping in the park is only allowed in designated sites and that there might be a few available in other campgrounds. She gave me a map and circled three of them, two of which were on my route east. I thanked her, turned around, and headed back out to Route 3.

I skipped the first campground, mostly because it was right on the main road, and pulled into the second one, which was about 10 kilometers from the resort turn. This one was almost full. There were two sites that weren’t reserved or taken and both were on the main road. The idea of paying $25 to camp in such a full campground so close to a highway really bugged me. So I left and we continued on our way.

We passed out of the park. I looked for camping possibilities. I suspected I’d have to go off on a side road, but I had no idea where to try. A bunch of signs warned about road work and flagmen up ahead so I slowed down. I got to a bend in the road where a woman was turning around a truck at an intersection where a gravel road went off to the right. There were lots of road work signs. I stopped beside her and rolled down my window. “Are you a pilot car?” I asked.

She looked surprised. “No,” she replied.

I pointed down the road beside us. “Where does that go?”

She gave me a huge shrug. “I don’t know, but Copper Creek is down there.”

“Any camping?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

I thanked her and let her pull away. Then I turned right down the road toward Copper Creek.

The road was obviously a logging road — signs at the beginning provided information about radio calls and warned, “No seatbelt, no job.” I proceeded cautiously. I didn’t have far to go. About a quarter mile down the road was a bridge over a creek. And right before the bridge was a clearing with a picnic table and fire pit. No, two picnic tables with firepits. I slowed to a stop and looked at the sign: Copper Creek Recreation Area. I turned in.

It was a tiny campground with 5 sites, three of which were right on the creek, and a pit toilet. No one else was there. The $12 fee would be collected by “an attendant.”

At Copper Creek
My campsite at Copper Creek. The creek is right beyond the trees to the right of the Turtleback.

After scouting the area — including some minor road damage from erosion — I chose a campsite and backed into it. I had trouble getting the Turtleback level and wound up backing up almost all the way to the picnic table. When I was satisfied with what the level said, I put the truck in park and shut it off. (Unfortunately, I misread the level and we were camped on a bit of an angle for the night. I have since ordered leveling blocks.) I let Penny out and went about setting up my grill to make dinner: sausages with salad and garden tomatoes.

The site, which was about 10 feet from the creek, was extremely pleasant with the sound of flowing water. If the road was for logging, either the loggers were done for the day or had the weekend off. No other campers showed up. No attendant showed up, either. I had dinner outside at the picnic table, and then, when the sun dipped below the trees, I went in for the evening.

I didn’t realize it then, but it would be my last night on vacation.

Summer 2016 Road Trip, Day 6: Chilliwack Lake to Hozomeen Campground

Back over the border to the U.S.

It was just getting light when I woke up. The forest canopy over my campsite was too dense for me to get an idea of the weather, but it wasn’t raining.

I made coffee and settled down at the table to finish up the two previous day’s blog posts. I needed to add the photos. That’s the most time-consuming part because it requires me to choose the photos I want to illustrate what I’ve written open them in an image editing app, crop them, and then save them as JPEGs. Then I have to import them into just the right place in my blog post and write captions. (I’ve got a blogging app I’ve been using for years — it’s called ecto and is no longer supported by its author — and I’ve got it all tricked out with macros that make blogging quick and easy for me. When ecto stops working, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ve tried other tools that just don’t seem to do the job I need them to.)

I finished up that Trader Joe’s almond danish, too. Had to do it. Didn’t want it getting stale.

Chilliwack Lake Hike

I was done by the time the sun started shining on the trees around me. Time for a walk. I still hadn’t really seen the lake. According to the map I had, the trail I could pick up out behind my campsite would take me right to it. So I finished getting dressed, put Penny on her leash, and set off with my camera.

The trail was wide and carpeted with evergreen needles. The trees formed a canopy over us. Each campsite had a small trail running from it to the larger trail, but when we’d passed the last campsite, that stopped. We headed deeper and deeper into the woods, without any sound from the campground.

I met up with a woman walking two border collie mix dogs. We stopped to chat while Penny and the dogs did their dog greeting things.

Further along the trail, we met up with a woman who seemed absolutely terrified of Penny to the point that she walked off the trail as we approached. I kept Penny’s leash short until we’d passed. That was weird. Penny barely noticed her.

Lakeside Trail at Chilliwack Lake
One of many narrow trails that wound through the woods near Chilliwack Lake.

The trail took me down to the a footbridge where the Chilliwack Lake dumps into the Chilliwack River. The water rushed by as Penny and I crossed the bridge. The trail continued up to Radium Lake, which I was not interested in visiting, so we doubled back across the bridge and found another trail that paralleled the northern shoreline of the lake, taking us back toward the campground and boat launch. Soon we were among tents and RVs, not far from the site I’d almost stayed in the previous day.

Bridge across Chilliwack River Trailside Sign
Left: The bridge across the Chilliwack River at the outlet of the lake was rustic but sturdy. Right: A typical trail sign in a Brtitish Columbia park is full of useful information about distances, trail conditions, and even exact location.

Early Morning at Chilliwack Lake
Early morning at Chilliwack Lake.

I found another trail down to the beach and followed that. Boats were tied up along the shoreline there, waiting for another day of fishing or water sports. The lake’s water was clean and clear; the mountains around the lake were majestic, robed in thick green forests. It looked just like you’d expect a Pacific Northwest lake to look. Picture postcard stuff. Was I starting to get numb to all the magnificent scenery around me?

We walked back up to the campground and headed back to our site. I chose one of the other trails that cut through the woods in the approximate direction I wanted to go. I realized that the whole park was criss-crossed with a network of unmarked trails. Once you were 50 feet or so down a trail, you were in woods so dense that you couldn’t see any signs of campgrounds or people. It was kind of pleasant, but I expect it would unnerve people without a good sense of direction or situational awareness.

Chores before Departure

Back at the campsite, I did the dishes and packed up. On the way out of the campground, I made one stop: at the dump station. I didn’t need to dump my tanks — I’d done that two days before on the way to Mount Baker. But I did want to top off the water tank. My fresh water system seemed to be having a pressure issue and the pump would go on when I wasn’t using the water. I suspected it was because the water level was low. One way to test that theory was to top off the water level and see if the problem persisted.

There was a man with a motorhome filling his water tank when I arrived. He was a little older than me and wore a knit cap and small-lensed sunglasses. We chatted for a while — hell, I’ll chat with nearly anyone. We talked about our rigs and their pros and cons and traveling to Arizona and all kinds of things. The water spigot did not fill very quickly so we had at least 15 minutes to talk. I realized that I’d have to either pull out a hose to reach my fresh water fill port or turn my truck around. So when he was done and we said our goodbyes, I followed him out, turned around, and pulled in going the wrong way. As my tank filled, I told the folks behind me (or in front of me, I guess) what I was up to so they didn’t have to wonder. It seemed to take forever for my tank to fill; I guess it was emptier than I thought.

I toyed with the idea of taking the road all the way down to the south end of the lake, but decided against it. Instead, I headed out the way I’d come in. Without a cell signal, I wasn’t sure about how to get to my next destination, but I figured I’d pick up the highway — and a cell signal — in Chilliwack. (Note to self: Get paper maps of all destinations prior to trip departure.)

On the Road Again

I paid closer attention to the road that I’d taken down to the lake the day before. I realized that my blog description wasn’t quite as clear as it could have been. I saw that it was mostly straight through a heavily forested area. It was the kind of area where they clear cut trees in big areas but leave the trees close to the road intact, to hide the cutting. But you can easily see the bright patches through the trees along the road, making it clear that there are no trees 50 or 100 feet in. You can also tell the area is heavily forested by simply looking up a the hillsides where there have been clearcuts in the past. I’ve seen this all over the northwest, particularly in Oregon and Washington. When you’re in a helicopter, these areas are hard to miss.

The road came close to Chilliwack River in several places. In one area not far from the city of Chilliwack there are rapids where kayakers practice. I’d noticed it on my way in and decided to stop. I got out of the truck with my camera, leaving Penny behind. And who do you think I ran into right near the river bank? The same guy I’d chatted with at the campground dump station.

We must have talked for another 30 of 45 minutes. Travel, politics, relationships, trucks. He told me how worried Canadians are about our elections. About how a Donald Trump presidency would make us the laughing stock of the world. I told him that Canada is going to need a wall if he gets elected.

I managed to get some photos of kayakers coming through the rapids as we chatted. Unfortunately, they’re all on my Nikon so I can’t add any to this blog post until I get home.

Although I think we could have talked all day, I reminded him that I was facing a two-hour drive to my next destination and was hoping to get a hike in there before dinner. So we went our separate ways and I got back on the road.

There was traffic in Chilliwack. I debated stopping and using my cell phone connection to publish the two blog posts I’d finished but decided to wait until I got to Hope, where my next exit was. By this time, my Internet connection was working fine in the car and Google was providing driving instructions. I got on the highway and headed east again.

I drove at the speed limit — after using my glasses to figure out what 110 kph was in mph (almost 70). The road was just curvy enough that I didn’t feel comfortable going any faster with the Turtleback on top. I’m starting to think that’s how they establish speed limits: put a camper on the back of a pickup and drive as fast as they can. When the load starts feeling a little unstable, that’s the speed limit.

There was nothing remarkable about the drive. There seldom is on a freeway. That’s why I tend to avoid freeway driving on a road trip. If I wanted to move quickly between two distant points, I’d fly. Driving is to be enjoyed, whenever possible. Back roads offer an insight into the way people in an area live. They give drivers a chance to see the world around them when they’re not doing 70 mph.

One thing I did notice, though: Canada has the same familiar brands we have in the U.S. The first thing I noticed after crossing the border was a Costco, followed immediately by Lowes. There are all the same fast food places, there are Starbucks everywhere. Banks and supermarkets had different names. Of course, I wasn’t on the freeway when I noted all this. Can’t notice much at 70 mph.

The Road to Hozomeen

Google alerted me to my exit up ahead, one of the first in Hope. From there, it had me turn south on a relatively narrow road with neglected pavement. I drove past a row of small, condemned houses alongside a creek and then a residential area. And then I was heading south toward another provincial park and the border. I’d gone at least 10 miles before I remembered my planned stop at Hope to publish those blog posts. Oh, well. It could wait another day.

The road was in sorry shape. This was not a surprise. All the reviews I’d read about Hozomeen mentioned the road. It was 38 miles from Hope to the campground and although I’m not sure what the speed limit was, I was able to keep my speed at about 30 to 40 miles per hour. The road was actually worse on the north end because it also led to handful of lakeside and riverside provincial parks that, according to the ranger I met later at Hozomeen, were pretty popular with the locals. At a certain point, the road gave up any pretense of being paved and continued with a hard-packed gravel surface that had potholes but very little washboarding.

Although I’d lost my cell phone signal not far from the beginning of the road, GoogleMaps still showed my route with an estimate how how much time/distance I had left. I realized after a while that it was counting down the minutes faster than real time — I suspect I was going faster than Google thought I would.

Cars, some pulling trailers or boats, passed me in the opposite direction. Maybe ten of them total. There was no one in front of me and no one behind me.

I reached the turn for Ross Lake Campground in Skagit Valley Provincial Park and turned in. This would be plan B for the night. The campground was remarkably similar to the one I’d spent the previous night in: wooded, decent sized sites with trees or brush for some privacy. The sites along the lake — I’d reached the north end of Ross Lake at this point — were either taken or reserved. But there were plenty of empty sites, many of which would meet my needs. So if Hozomeen didn’t pan out, this would work.

Boundary Sign
This is the US sign looking toward Canada. The Canadian sign is on the flip side. This sign post can’t be more than 3 feet tall.

I left the campground and continued south. There was a turn for a day use area on the lake. And then a nondescript sign that said International Boundary. I kept driving, slowly now, looking for the border station where I’d need to stop and show ID.

There wasn’t any.

Instead, the speed limit signs went from kph to mph. I was in the United States.

And this is what really makes me laugh. Politicians talk about putting up walls and fences to keep out illegal immigrants and terrorists. If they only had a glimpse of reality! This isn’t the first time I’d crossed an International border that wasn’t protected by anything more than a sign. The borders between the United States and its neighbors to the north and south are thousands of miles long. It is impossible to protect every inch of them. Anyone who tells you different is either lying or completely ignorant. Hell, I blogged about this way back in 2010 when John McCain was going on and on about a fence along the U.S./Mexico border. Same tune, same completely idiotic plan.

Ranger Station at Hozomeen
The ranger station at Hozomeen is a cute little a-frame that looks as if it’s been there for 50 years or more.

A little bit farther down the road was a cute little A-frame building that was clearly the ranger station. The flagpole was bare. The door was wide open. I parked and got out to see whether I had to check in or show ID or pay a fee. There was no one in the building, although it had clearly been set up for ranger business. The placed smelled old and musty, like my godfather Jackie’s basement antique shop. There were flyers — including one titled “Insects: Masters of Survival,” which I took, hoping I wouldn’t need to consult it — but no area maps. A sign outside was titled “How to Find a Ranger” and provided a list of places to look if you needed a ranger. Talk about loosey goosey.

Ranger Station Door Open Inside the Hozomeen Ranger Station
Left: The door to the ranger station stood wide open. Note sign titled “How to Find a Ranger.” Right: Inside the Hozomeen ranger station.

But let’s face it: we were in the middle of nowhere and the only road led north, back into Canada. It wasn’t as if this was a waypoint along a heavily trafficked route into Seattle. We were at the end of the road and beyond it were only bear-filled mountains. The only people coming to this place were people who wanted to be in this place — not somewhere beyond it. It wasn’t the kind of place you’d stumble into. The rangers likely realized that people who came here had done some sort of homework and likely wouldn’t need their help. Why sit in an office to greet the handful of people who might show up each day?

So I got back in the truck and continued down the road, trying to get a feel for the place and an idea of where I could camp for the night.

Three Sites at Hozomeen

Hozomeen lies at the far north end of Ross Lake, a 25-mile long, manmade lake along the Skagit River in the North Cascades. A mentioned above, it’s only accessible by car through Canada. It’s also the only place on the lake where where there are boat launches. So if you want to put a decent sized boat on the lake, you have to go to Canada to do it — even though less than 3 miles of the lake are within Canadian borders. There’s supposed to be good trout fishing in the lake, although limits are determined by whether you caught the fish in the U.S. or Canada.

Other than boating and fishing, there’s hiking. Hozomeen Campground was named for Hozomeen Mountain just to the east. A trail winds up from one of the camping areas to Hozomeen Lake. It was that trail that I was hoping to hike when I got here. But by the time I arrived in early afternoon, after being bumped around for an hour on the road from Hope, I wasn’t in the mood for a 7-mile round trip hike, the first mile or so of which was a steep climb. But I’m getting ahead of myself now.

A few hundred feet farther down the road was the first campground, Winnebago Flats. I’m thinking that’s more of a nickname than anything else. It was a mostly open area right on the water and was nearly full of RVers and tent campers baking in the sun. There were boats tied up at the docks and boat trailers parked here, there, and everywhere. Some kids and dogs, a generator running — definitely not the kind of quiet place I wanted to stay. I kept driving.

The road climbed a bit above the lake and entered the same dense woods I’d come to expect. Off to the right was the ranger housing — one of the places you might find a ranger — and beyond that, to the left, was a road marked Hozomeen Trailhead that climbed into the hillside. And beyond that, a campground loop. This one was just about deserted, with only three campers in 30+ sites. As I drove through, I liked what I saw. I picked a site on a hillside with views of the lake through the trees, backed my rig in, and got out to set up camp.

By “set up camp,” I really mean make lunch. I had the same thing I’d made the day before: grilled eggplant and goat brie on the bread I’d bought two days before. I finished up the brie but had no shortage of eggplant or bread. Penny sat in high alert while I made and ate my meal. I suspect she smelled the bears that were supposed to be in the area and was waiting for one to come bounding out of the woods.

After lunch, we followed the signs to the boat launch just down the road. I’d seen a ranger SUV head down there and figured I’d ask a few questions about the area. The road was longer than I expected and we reached the ranger boat dock first. That’s where the two rangers were. One was fiddling with the motor on a 20+ foot aluminum-hulled boat while the other sat on the dock waiting. Both wore uniforms and inflatable collar life jackets, like the ones I’d bought for overwater operations in my helicopter years ago.

I called out and the waiting ranger walked over. I asked him if there was a fee and whether I needed a backcountry permit. (No and no.) We talked about the bear situation (there was a resident bear), leaving fires unattended (a definite no-no), and leaving food out overnight (another no-no). He reminded me that Penny needed to be leashed at all times. We talked about the other campground and he mentioned that there were fewer bugs there because of the breezes — which is one reason it was so popular. The mosquitoes weren’t bad — yet — he assured me. (I’d already noticed them.) Then we talked about the condition of the road and the fact that bad weather in July had kept park attendance low, which kept the road from getting washboarded. We also talked about living and working in such a remote place and agreed that there were a lot worse places a ranger could be stationed.

By then, the other ranger had the engine running. I volunteered our services to help out on the boat if needed and we both laughed. Then we parted ways. As I headed back up the road, the boat roared out over the lake towards the opposite shore.

There’s a lot to be said about a career as a U.S. Park Ranger.

Back at the campsite, I took a nap. It seemed like something that had to be done.

Customs Cabin
I read in one of the guide books that this was originally a customs cabin.

I woke up around four and felt that I really needed to do something. So Penny and I got into the truck and drove up to the Hozomeen Trailhead. It was a lot closer than I remembered it being — we could have walked. I parked by the old Customs Cabin there and got out to look around. The cabin was neat and clean inside, with two beds and a kitchen area. The padlock on the door wasn’t clasped shut, but I didn’t go in. I didn’t want to intrude on what might be someone’s living space. A creek roared by past the back of the cabin and there was a tall water tank nearby — likely the source of all the water in the park.

There were campsites nearby, too. One very close to the trailhead was large with what looked like a level place to park. There was a restroom nearby. No other campers. I peeked into the restroom and it was immaculately clean and odor-free — as if it were brand new.

Campsite Two
My second campsite for the day.

I got to thinking that this might be a better campsite. Clean restrooms, water right across the road, ranger housing just down the hill. I didn’t need any of these things, but they somehow figured into my calculations. Penny and I got back into the truck, drove it down to our first campsite, gathered together the few things I’d left out, and drove back to the new site on the hill. I backed in, maneuvering to get the Turtleback as level as possible, and parked. Then I unpacked those outdoor items and left them at the table.

I tried to sit for a while, but the mosquitoes were bugging me — literally, I guess. I put on some of the “all natural,” Deet-free bug repellant I’d bought in the Mazama Store a few days before. I didn’t have high hopes of it working — I’d read a review of bug repellants online recently and it rated the ones with Deet a lot higher than the others. But this one seemed to work. The mosquitoes stayed clear. And it didn’t smell bad, either.

There was a trail down to the road and feeling the need to take some kind of hike, I leashed up Penny and followed it. From there, we walked a short distance down the road before another trail led to the lake. That eventually put us right on the shore. It was after 5 PM at this point and still bright and sunny on the east shoreline. I quickly worked up a sweat and began wondering how that bug repellant would handle it.

Ross Lake Trail
The trail through the woods eventually led to one right alongside the lake. You can see the campers at Winnebago Flats in the near distance.

The sunny campground was 3/4 of a mile from where I’d parked. As I walked through, I realized that the campers on the south end were the noisy groups while those on the north end were more laid back. I stopped and took photos from a few of the docks and chatted with a woman floating in an inner tube beside a boat with two barking dogs in it. (I’d left Penny on shore; she didn’t want to walk on the dock surface.) When I noticed the top of Hozomeen Peak to the east — which is impossible to see from the shore — she told me that in late afternoon as the sun was going down, it glowed.

That’s probably the seed that got me thinking about moving my campsite again. There was a campsite at the north end right beside a trailer parking spot. The lake would be right out my back door. It wasn’t a tough decision. When I told the folks two sites down that I was thinking of moving there, they offered to hold it for me while I fetched my rig. Thirty minutes later, I was backing into my third (and last) campsite for the day.

Campsite 3
My third (and last) campsite for the day was small and not very private, but had nice views of the lake out the back windows.

Funny, but usually the problem is there not being enough good campsites to choose from. In this campground, there are too many.

Penny and I relaxed out behind the camper for a while. I sat in my new chair with my feet up on the picnic table bench. It was a quieter than I expected it to be. I’d made a good decision.

A ranger came by and invited me to attend a ranger program at the International Border Amphitheater at 8 PM. She wasn’t clear about how far away it was. I thought about walking over after dinner.

Later, I took out the grill again and cooked up a chicken thigh and some zucchini. We ate out at the picnic table, overlooking the lake. 8 PM came and went. My neighbors walked up to the presentation. I stayed at my site.

Stand Up Paddleboarders with Dogs
As I ate dinner, a pair of standup paddle boarders paddled down from Canada with their dogs. I shot this photo when they were on their way back after sunset.

When it got too chilly to sit outside, I went in and got to work on this blog post. I’m rather proud of the way I’ve been keeping up on this trip. It’s got me thinking that it is possible for me to get real writing work done when I travel.

My neighbors got home and started a campfire. But I was in bed asleep before they put it out.

Summer 2016 Road Trip, Day 5: Mount Baker to Chilliwack Lake

What a difference a day makes!

I slept like the dead. Again. Not a single vehicle drove by during the 12+ hours we were parked there.

The first thing I noticed when I woke up was that it was light out. The second thing was that the sky was clear. And then I remembered being half-awake in the middle of the night and looking through the sunroof to see stars.

Campsite Near Mt. Shuksan
Where did that mountain come from? It wasn’t there last night.

I looked out the back door. There was a snow-covered peak out there, just beyond the trees. I later realized that it was Mount Shuksan.

And then I realized that there was a pretty good chance I’d be able to see Mount Baker from Artist Point only a few miles away. In first light.

I sprung into action, getting the water boiling for my coffee while I got dressed. Penny didn’t stir. She probably thought I was going to spend some time writing, as I had every morning. But when I started putting my shoes on, she knew something was up. Only a few minutes later, the Turtleback was buttoned up and we were back in the truck with hot coffee and a piece of almond danish from Trader Joe’s, heading back up the mountain.

We passed a rig almost identical to mine parked between my campsite and the bee yard, right in the first spot I’d noticed on the way in.

Mount Baker, Revealed!

I stopped at Picture Lake again. The water was absolutely still, with a thin mist rising off the surface into the cool morning air. And there, to the southeast, just like it was supposed to be, was Mount Shuksan.

I parked and walked right to the spot where I knew the reflection would be. It was there. It was perfect. I snapped several shots from several different places with my cell phone and my Nikon. I recorded a video and shared it with Facebook friends. honestly wished they could all be with me. I’m such a sucker for reflection views.

At Picture Lake
Mount Shuksan reflected in Picture Lake.

Mount Baker
I finally got to see Mount Baker.

I continued up the road, all the way up to the Artist Point parking area. I got glimpses of Mount Baker along the way. I got out with my camera, planning to take a short walk to the viewpoint. I almost took my coffee with me. But I’m glad I didn’t because I wound up doing the entire Artist Point hike again. This time, I got to see the mountains around me. I was away from the car for more than an hour. Penny went back to sleep.

Mount Baker Reflection
The top of Mount Baker reflected in a snowmelt pond atop Artist Point.

When I got back to the parking area, I chatted with a ranger who was cleaning out the restrooms. I told her where I’d spent the night. She told me that if I’d gone all the way to the end of that road, the area opens up with incredible views of the mountains. Plenty of room to camp and turn around. Next time.

I moved the truck to a parking spot on the other side of the lot, backing it in so the back door faced right out to Mount Baker. There was another rig similar to mine parked nearby. While I got the water going for another cup of coffee, I chatted with the owner of the rig. He had a bicycle rack on the front of his truck and I wondered if it would be strong enough to support my new dirt bike. We got to talking about camping with our rigs and he told me that he and his wife had parked right there overnight. “There are no signs that say you can’t,” he pointed out. He was right. I could have stayed right there.

I had my second breakfast sitting out on my new chair, overlooking Mount Baker. Coffee, granola, greek yogurt, and the blueberries I’d picked over the weekend. Is it the view that made it taste extra special? Or the fact that I felt exhilarated after the previous day’s dismal weather doldrums?

After breakfast Penny and I loaded back up and headed down the mountain. I stopped again at Heather Meadows and took some photos of the area from alongside a small pond — more reflections, of course — and from the warming hut at the edge of the valley. I didn’t stay long. I was ready to move on.

Heather Meadows Reflection
Reflections at Heather Meadows. I did mention I was a sucker for reflections, didn’t I?

My next planned stop was Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia. Penny and I were going to Canada.

Good Day, Eh?

The trip down the mountain was uneventful. There was some road work that delayed us for about 20 minutes, but I filled the time catching up on the news and checking the weather and our route.

We’d cross the border at Sumas, WA near Abbotsford, BC. I had my passport card — a credit card sized passport good for crossing into Canada or Mexico by land — and documentation for Penny’s shots. I stopped to top off the tank with diesel in Sumas before getting on line to cross; I wasn’t sure if fuel prices would be higher or lower on the other side and figured I’d rather take care of it in the U.S. Then we drove up and waited on line.

At the Border
Waiting in line at the border.

When it was my turn, the border guy took my card and asked a lot of questions. Where did I live (Washington), what did I do for a living (helicopter pilot), was I coming to Canada to look for work (no), where was I going (some parks along the border), was I meeting anyone in Canada (no), had I ever been fingerprinted (yes), for what (concealed weapons permit), what kind of guns did I own (Beretta and shotgun), why do I have a Beretta (I got it when I lived in Arizona for protection; I live alone), did I have a gun with me (no), why not (I didn’t think it was allowed), did I have any ammo with me (no), how long had I had my truck and camper (December for truck, April for camper), was I leaving anything behind when I left Canada (no), was I selling anything in Canada (no), did I know everything on board my camper (yes), was I bringing any animals (my dog), did I have paperwork for vaccinations (yes). Those are just the ones I remember. It took a long while. I wonder whether it has anything to do with the last time I went to Vancouver, which was for my old work. I made the mistake of saying I was working and they almost didn’t let me in. Did they put a black mark next to my name? Who the hell knows?

He finally gave back my passport card and told me I could move on. “Enjoy your stay,” he said. I was just glad to have passed muster.

My cell phone worked fine in Canada — I’d turned on International roaming — and I asked Google to direct me to Chilliwack Lake. Then I made my way onto the Route 1 freeway (or whatever they call it in Canada) eastbound. It was amusing to hear Google give me directions in kilometers and meters instead of miles and feet. As if my brain had somehow switched to the metric system when I crossed the border. (I assure you, it did not.)

A while later, I was off the highway and on a back road through farmland. I stopped at a place called the Farm Store to buy some fresh corn. I wound up buying some excellent goat brie, balsamic sea salt, a loaf of bakery bread, and an ice cream cone. That’s when I discovered that (1) my credit card worked fine and (2) the $75 of Canadian money I had with me was “antique.” I had a paper “loonies” and two paper “toonies” — pardon me if I spelled either of those wrong — neither of which are printed anymore. The bills I had were also larger than the new money and the new money has a clear section across each bill. Canadians apparently hate it. A woman offered to buy my loonie and toonies; she said she had a friend whose grandson collects “old money.” I like encouraging kids to do something other than watch TV and play video games, so I traded her for a brand new $5 bill. A couple who observed the whole transaction wanted to know where I got that old Canadian money. “Canada,” I told them. “A long time ago.”

We got back on the road and continued east along the Chilliwack River, passing through a few towns along the way. Then the road settled into a relatively straight drive through a valley with occasional signs reporting how far away the park was. I put the truck in cruise control, following another truck with a pull trailer about a half mile ahead of me. The speed limit was 80 kph and I had to use my reading glasses to read the fine print on my speedometer to see what that was in mph (about 50).

At Chilliwack Lake

The pavement ended at Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park. I turned right into the campground after the trailer in front of me.

The campground was really a collection of smaller campgrounds, each with several loops. Like so many park campgrounds in the U.S., you could choose your own site. But unlike park campgrounds in the U.S., this one had an “attendant” who would come collect the fee: $22 or about $18 US.

Privacy While Camping

If you’re wondering how I measure privacy while I’m camping, it’s basically the same as I measure it at home. Can I get dressed/undressed without closing the blinds? Can I talk in a normal tone of voice without being heard? Can I relax or sleep without being woken by someone else’s conversation? Do the names of my neighbor’s misbehaved dogs and/or children remain unknown to me? If the answer to all of those questions is Yes, I have the privacy I want.

I equate staying in a campground to living in a subdivision. While it is possible to get the level of privacy I need, it’s not easy. It’s a lot easier to get privacy when you stay someplace more remote — which explains, in part, why I live on ten acres of land two miles down a gravel dead-end road.

I was hoping to get a site along the lake so I went there first. No luck. I pulled into a site near the lake, shut off the engine, and even got Penny out. But I looked at my surroundings — campers with kids (!) on either side of me and behind me with absolutely no privacy. I couldn’t stay there. To hell with the lake. I needed quiet and privacy.

Chilliwack Lake Campsite
Our campsite at Chilliwack Lake. On a whim, I put out the awnings for the first time. With a table close to the camper, this one would make a decent shelter, considering its size.

So we got back in and kept driving. I wound up in a heavily wooded site not far from the campground host. There was no one behind me, dense trees on the driver’s side, and enough trees for privacy on the passenger side. I backed my rig all the way in, right beside the picnic table and fire pit. All I saw out the back and back side windows were trees. That was as good as it was going to get.

I took out my portable grill and set it up on the picnic table, then went about making lunch. I put Penny was on her leash and left her car bed near the table. Then I sliced up some of the Japanese eggplant from my garden, cutting each one lengthwise. I brushed each cut side with olive oil mixed with Spike seasoning. (I prefer Mrs. Dash garlic flavor but hadn’t remembered to bring any.) I laid them on the grill, skin side down, and turned down the flame. With the lid closed, they baked to perfection. I had some of that goat brie and fresh bread, then scraped the meat of the eggplant off the skin and added it to the bread. Delicious.

The attendant came by; she was an older, heavyset woman who wanted to make sure I wasn’t staying more than one night because the site was reserved for the weekend. When I assured her I was just there for the night, she wrote up a receipt and parking pass and I paid her with $25 in Canadian bills, getting two large coins as change. She also gave me a map of the area, which I sorely needed if I wanted to find the hiking trails I knew were nearby.

I spent a little while working on a blog post about the previous day’s travels. I’d fallen asleep too early that night to get any writing done and had rushed out in the morning. If I didn’t catch up, I’d get too far behind to write up each day. As I mentioned in another blog post, I’m trying hard to get back into writing regularly, so it was important not to skip a day.

Lindeman Lake

The campground map included some information about local hikes. Post Creek to Lindeman Lake, which is the hike I’d seen when I did some research last week, was the one that interested me. According to the map, it was four kilometers with a 215 meter elevation gain. Rated moderate.

This is a family favorite and is known as the “Crown Jewel” of the park. This beautiful crystal clear lake offers many spots for summer campers to cool off or backcountry tenting pads.

Sold to the American who can’t convert meters to feet!

I had established the other day that I was good for an average elevation gain of 500 feet per mile. The hike up to Thunder Knob was just under 400 feet per mile and it was tough for me. The 4 km hike was 2-1/2 miles or 1-1/4 mile each way. That was fine. Short, even. But my brain didn’t process the elevation gain properly. It got stuck on 215 as feet, not meters. Turns out, 215 meters is 705 feet. That’s quite a climb in what turned out to be less than a mile.

Of course, I didn’t know that when I first started out. Family friendly hike! Rated moderate! Piece of cake.

Penny and I hiked to the trailhead along a very nice, mostly flat trail called the Trans-Canada Trail, which goes right through the campground. (It actually passed about 100 feet behind my campsite.) From there, we walked down the road to the parking area for the Lindeman Lake trailhead. At least part of this walk must have counted toward that 4 km because a sign at the trailhead said it was 3.4 km round trip to the lake.

We started off through the woods alongside Post Creek. It was very pleasant.

Hill Climb to Lindeman Lake
A typical portion of the trail to Lindeman Lake. This family was in front of me for about half the hike. I caught up several times and finally passed them about 1/4 mile from the lake.

Until it narrowed to a dirt path and started to climb. Steeply. Up a boulder- and log-strewn hillside.

There were red reflective markers nailed to trees along the way. They were necessary. Without them, people would not have been able to stay on the trail. It was basically a scrambling hill climb.

For almost a whole mile.

I actually did remarkably well. I look back on my physical condition five years ago, before I lost all that weight, when I spent most of my time sitting around, waiting for something — anything — to happen. (My life was pretty dull in those days.) There’s no way I could have done this hike back then. It would have killed me. But now, although I still don’t do uphill climbs very quickly, I have the energy to do it. I even passed some people on the way up. (Okay, so it was a family with four kids under the age of five and an older woman walking with a cane.)

It was hard, sweaty work, but it was still enjoyable. Why? Because it was in the woods and it was cool and there was the constant sound of running water nearby. And the smell of the woods and fresh running water. And the people were so friendly. And the lake at the end of the hike was everything the map blurb had promised.

Lindeman Lake Pano
A panoramic shot of Lindeman Lake, taken from the beach near the campsites.

Lindeman Lake
Like most lakes in the Pacific Northwest, this one had a logjam at its outlet. Post Creek flowed from here past the trail we took to the lake.

It was a beautiful lake. Long and narrow in a valley surrounded by trees and rockslides and cliffs. There were wooden tent platforms built in groups nearby. Camping lakeside here would be amazing. Once you got all the way up there with a pack on your back.

I didn’t go swimming, but one of two guys who arrived right after me did go in. He said it wasn’t that cold as he got started but then made that noise people make when they get into very cold water when he popped up after fully submerging. He didn’t stay in very long.

Penny and I hung out up there for about 20 minutes. Then we headed back. I motored. I always do downhill. It’s that gravity assist. I did enjoy the flat, wide trail for the last 3/4 mile of the hike.

Back at the campsite, I wasted no time getting into the shower. There’s nothing that feels better than a nice warm shower right after a hot, sweaty hike. And clean clothes. Also good.

Dinner and a Blog Post or Two

I spent another hour or so out at the picnic table, finishing up the blog post I’d started before heading out on the hike. Then, as it started to cool down, I retreated indoors with Penny, heated up some leftovers for dinner, and kept writing. I wrote up most of the day by the time the sun had set.

Ibuprofen. For the first time on this trip, it was absolutely required. My legs are very sore.

Summer 2016 Road Trip, Day 4: Baker Lake to Mount Baker

Making it up as I go along.

It was raining when I fell asleep but had stopped by the time I woke up at first light. The trees dripped steadily on the roof of the Turtleback, reminding me just how wet it was outside, even if it wasn’t raining.

Overnight, not a single vehicle had driven by.

I made coffee and finished up the previous day’s blog post by adding photos. Penny woke up and I let her out. When she came back in, she went right back to bed. It was that kind of day.

The Road to Larrabee State Park

Baker Lake
It was starting out to be another dreary day at Baker Lake. This view looks south down the lake.

By 8 AM, we were back on the road, heading south along the lake. It was a dreary day, with low clouds and not a single ray of sunshine. But the big surprise was the number of boats on the north end of the lake: dozens of them. There must be some serious fishing out there to get so many guys out on boats in that weather so early in the morning.

On the road down to Route 20 — Route 11, not the “shortcut” I’d taken the day before — I found the park I should have spent the night in: a tiny county park about 5 miles up the road on a small lake. It was nearly deserted with plenty of lakeside spots for only $5/night. Of course, that’s $5 more than I paid to park where I’d spent the night, but at least I would have been closer to my destination on that cloudy morning. And I think it was worth it.

I had three destinations that day, all in Bellingham: Trader Joe’s, REI, and Larrabee State Park, where I expected to spend the night. Common sense would dictate that I should make the two retail stops before the overnight stop, but I wanted to check out the campground before I committed to it. So I told Google to direct me there and it did, guiding me on Route 20 out of the foothills and into the farmland west of the Cascades. We passed over I-5 and hopped on Chuckanut Road, a narrow, winding road that eventually followed the shoreline north, with views of the San Juan Islands in the misty fog. It would have been a great road on a motorcycle, but in a 1-ton pickup with a full-sized camper on top, not so much.

I eventually reached the campground at Larrabee State park and turned in. The pay station was closed — it wasn’t even 10 AM yet — and instructions said to choose a site. There was a list of available sites and a map. I found a few that might work for me and drove in to check them out.

The campground wasn’t anything like I’d expected. It was densely wooded with narrow winding roads that I sometimes thought I wouldn’t fit through. The sites were relatively close together so there was no privacy. But that was sort of moot because it didn’t look like any of the sites on my list were large enough to get my truck into. The RV parking area was the kind of parking lot style “campsites” I abhor, although I admit they did have trees and shade. There were kids all over the place, mostly on bicycles and all loud. There was no sign of the coast or a beach or the tidal pools I’d hoped to explore — apparently you had to drive or hike down to the water. The train noise warning sound was a bit of a put off, too. When I had to back out of a road because it didn’t look as if I’d make a sharp turn up ahead, I decided the campground wasn’t for me.

I stopped in the parking lot to access the Internet. I uploaded my track log and blog post from the day before. I studied my maps, looking for a place to go. Mount Baker had been tempting me — would I find a place to spend the night up there? Would it be worth the drive? Since I had all day, I figured it was worth a try.

I used Google Maps to find the closest REI and continued on my way.


REI was only 5 miles away — and on my way to both Trader Joe’s and the road to Mount Baker. I was looking for a lightweight, streamlined kayak that would be easy to take with me when I went out with the Turtleback. The two Costco kayaks I had were beginner’s kayaks I’d bought cheap because I didn’t know how much I’d like paddling. Turns out, I like it a lot. And with the number of lakes I expected to visit on this trip, it sure would be nice to have one with me.

But the REI in Bellingham doesn’t have a big selection of kayaks. I was referred to their website or their Seattle store — neither of which would help me that day. On my way out, I looked at an “adventure” map of the west side of Canada, decided it wasn’t detailed enough, and left empty handed.

Not so at Trader Joe’s, which was just two miles away. I picked up all the things I had on my list for a Trader Joe’s run — and a few more. The cashier and I got to talking about the weather, which was really getting me down. She said she loved it cloudy like that. I guess it’s a good thing she lives on that side of the mountains. More than 24 hours of clouds and rain had been more than enough for me.

The Road to Mount Baker

Google guided me to route 542, the scenic road to the Mount Baker recreation area. Well, the only road to Mount Baker. It left the semi-urban area of Bellingham quickly and passed into farmland. I learned that blueberries are a big crop in that area.

At Maple Falls, I turned toward Silver Lake, where there was supposed to be a campground with a dump station. That campground was my plan B (or is it C?) if I couldn’t find someplace to spend the night at Mount Baker. It was a huge campground with more narrow, winding, wooded roads and tiny campsites. Lots of availability and I could squeeze my truck into any of them. I stopped at the dump station on the way out and emptied my two holding tanks. Although I could have taken on some fresh water, I still had half a tank and didn’t feel like pulling out the hose.

Back to Route 542. The weather was still dismal, with patches of misty rain. The forecast had claimed it would clear up, but Mother Nature wasn’t listening to the forecast.

Wanting a hot meal, I stopped at a restaurant in Glacier for lunch, Graham’s. It looked pretty trendy from outside, but wasn’t the least bit trendy inside. It was just old and dressed up. The restrooms were weird with a big shared room that had a sink and two tiny toilet rooms. Whatever. When I’m camping, I never knock a flush toilet and hot water to wash my hands. I ordered the BBQ meat loaf sandwich, requesting the BBQ sauce on the side. It was amazingly delicious. Seriously: if I could make meat loaf that good, I’d have it all the time. Bacon, onions, provolone, soft fresh roll. Perfect. Wish I could say the same for the wine; it was a local barbera that was simply undrinkable. I tried and failed several times.

Back at the truck, Penny got my leftover meatloaf and seemed pretty happy about that. She’s a finicky eater, especially when we’re on the road, and I’m starting to think that I might have to start cooking for her.

Nooksack Falls
One of the few possible views of Nooksack Falls, which was crammed into a canyon with sheer rock wall sides.

Wooden Pipe
A wooden section of the diversion pipe at Nooksack Falls. You can’t tell from the photo, but the pipe is six feet in diameter.

We continued on our way, making one more stop before the end of the road: Nooksack Falls. This was an interesting waterfall on the Nooksack River, right where it meets with Wells Creek. There are fences that make it very difficult to get close to the falls and a warning sign that actually lists the names, ages, and dates of the people who were killed there within the past 30 years, including the unborn child of one of the victims who happened to be pregnant. (Talk about a downer!) But the fences were low enough to get photos and a good look. The site had been developed for a hydroelectric project downstream and some of the diversion pipe — which still has water running through it — runs through the site. It was kind of interesting in a weird sort of way — especially since a portion of the original wooden pipe was still there. It would have been a nice picnic stop if I needed one. The power plant was destroyed some years ago in a fire, so there was nothing of that to see.

We continued along Route 542, into the forest. Soon the road climbed steeply upward, with numerous tight curves and, later, switchbacks. If there were viewpoints, I didn’t notice them — all I could see where tree-covered hillsides climbing up into the clouds. The rain had stopped, but it showed no sign of clearing up.

I passed signs for the ski area and saw numerous buildings and ski lifts, all of which were closed. The road split into two one-way roads and wound around a small lake called Picture Lake. I got out to take some pictures (apparently, with my Nikon because I can’t find them on my phone) and wound up walking around the whole lake with Penny. Some signs along the way informed me that the lake was popular with photographers for the reflections of Mount Suksan to the southeast. I looked but could only see a mountain with snow climbing into the clouds.

Road to Artist Point
The road to Artist Point, shot from the Artist Point Trail on a less than perfect day.

I drove past the parking area for Heather Meadows, figuring that I might as well take the road to the end, which was just a few miles farther. It got very steep on this last part, with tight switchbacks. It ended abruptly at the parking area for Artist Point, which had about 30 cars in it. From this point, hikers could get on several different trailheads. The one that interested me was the one to Artist Point, mostly because it was short. I grabbed my camera, cracked the windows in the truck, and set out on a hike, leaving Penny behind.

Not Mount Baker
Mountain? There’s no mountain here.

I thought I’d be gone for just a short while, but it was at least an hour. Based on several signs along the way, I assumed I’d be able to see Mount Baker to the southwest if it was clear enough to see. It wasn’t. I could see the base of the mountain and some snow but the top half was completely obscured. I hiked the trail anyway, optimistically believing the weather forecast that said it would clear. It didn’t. I had a nice walk that included some photography and a thoughtful moment alongside a snowmelt creek. I reached several view points where I should have seen the mountain, but I didn’t. Instead, visibility got worse. I headed back, stopping to chat with a man who pointed out a grouse and two chicks. By the time I got back to the truck, visibility was down to less than 300 feet in the parking lot, which was now mostly empty.

We headed back down the road, this time stopping at Heather Meadows. The Fire and Ice Trail there was another easy one — a loop of about a mile. Although I didn’t plan on doing the whole thing, I did. Again, I left Penny behind. Again, the clouds obscured any mountain vistas. But I did get down to a large snowmelt creek that cut through a rocky, hilly meadow. It was the sound of this creek that filled the valley and could be heard all the way back up in the parking area.

Fire and Ice Trail
Along the Fire and Ice Trail. This photo makes it look as if it were cold out. It wasn’t — it was probably in the 60s. Just low overcast and dreary.

Looking for a Campsite

By this time, it was after 6 PM and I needed to find a place to spend the night. Part of me wanted to stay nearby just in case the weather cleared. If views of the mountains were possible in the morning, I could come back. But I didn’t want to drive all the way back from one of the campgrounds far below.

I remembered a turn onto a gravel road that I’d passed just below the ski resort. I found it on my map: White Salmon Road, FR 3075. It looked like it descended on steep terrain with three switchbacks before dead-ending. It couldn’t be more than two or three miles long. Maybe there would be a spot along the road where I could spend the night?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Ten minutes later, I made the turn and was heading down a narrow road through the forest.

Bee Yard Near Mount Baker
Why yes, there is a bee yard alongside the road near the Mount Baker Ski Resort.

I was very surprised to see a bee yard set up alongside the road. There were about 30 beehives there surrounded by an electric fence wire with a solar panel to keep it charged. (The fence was to keep out wildlife, especially bears, not people.)

I kept going. About a half mile down was a spot wide enough for me to pull over, but I really didn’t like the looks of it — too close to the road. I had no idea how much the road was used and didn’t want vehicles driving right past me.

I kept going. I started thinking about how remote it was. How unlikely it would be to get help if I needed it when I was so far from the main road. How long a walk it would be if something happened to the truck.

Just when I was ready to turn around, I found a campsite on the right side of the road. Slightly raised off the road, it was a clearing with three routes in/out. There was even a sad little fire pit in it.

Cell Tower
I had a 5-bar LTE cell connection when I shot this photo through the windshield of my truck. I wound up camping within 2 miles of here.

But do you want to know what sold me on it as a place to spend the night? I had a 2-bar LTE signal on my cell phone, probably from the cell phone facility I’d passed back up near the ski resort.

I turned the truck around so I was facing back down the road and my slide would be open away from the road. I maneuvered the truck into position in the site so it was relatively level. And then I killed the engine. We’d landed for the night.

Penny had no interest in walking around outside; she looked decidedly spooked. I suspect that she smelled some of the wildlife — maybe even a bear. So I locked the truck for the night and we went into the Turtleback. I had the door open for a while, but it was downright chilly so I closed it.

Believe it or not, I was still full from that meatloaf sandwich at lunch. I fed Penny some dog food, which she turned her nose up at. So I put her up on the bed while I read for a while, catching up on the antics of a certain presidential candidate who has turned election season into a surreal farce of epic proportions. I also checked in on Twitter and Facebook and peeked at my email. Part of me was glad to be on the grid while another part kind of wished I wasn’t. I liked not wasting time on social networks.

By 8:30, I was up on my bed, doing a crossword puzzle. By 9:30, I was asleep.